Devayani is one of the wonderful characters in the Mahabharata. She has full wisdom to discriminate between right and wrong. She has enough strength to fight against injustice. Even the rejection by Kacha, humiliation by Sarmishtha, can do nothing with the attitude of Devayani. She is really a powerful and unwavering character in The Mahabharata.
It is the aim of this paper to bring into limelight the status of Devayani with her special features, according to a feminist point of view.
Hinduism is the only major religion that worships God also as in feminine form too. All other major faiths see God as a ’Fatherly’ figure only. Even in our great Epic Mahabharata, which influences not only Indian men & women but also the entire humanity, we have so many great women characters, whose impact is beyond the limit of time and space.
We have a few women characters in this romance, who show excessive feminine utterances in their character and proves that woman is not a domestic commodity. And one of the most unwavering and invincible women characters is Devayani. Devayani was the lovely daughter of Sukracharya. She was outstanding & cogent in her attitude. Being a daughter of Sukracharya, she dared to admit her love for Kacha (son of Brinaspati).
For three times she saved his life from Asuras. She possessed quick wit and a clever tongue. Her ability to debate was demonstrated when Asura seized Kacha, tore him to pieces and threw his flesh to the dogs. It was her love that cried,
"The sun has set.......... Still Kacha has not returned home. I fear some mishap has befallen Kacha. I can’t live without him."
Again when he was killed second time, Devayani felt no hesitation to approach her father. When in their third attempt Asuras Killed Kacha and very cleverly burnt his body, mixed the ashes in wine and served it to Sukracharya; who drank it. Devayani again approached her father with distressful appeal with her true dedication for Kacha, that can be perceived in her words :
"I loved him dearly, and now that he has been killed, life to me has become bleak & insupportable. I shall therefore follow his path."
It was her wit to debate that saved Kacha everytime. Though, it was a one−sided affection as there was a purpose behind Kacha’s visit. He was pretending. He was seeking the secret of Sanjivini that’s why he had promised Sukracharya to live as a brahmchari for ten years. There is an old saying.
"Nothing is superior to truthfulness, nor anything more terrible than falsehood."
And for Devayani, this bitter truth that Kacha considered her as a sister as he had got back his life by being born out of her father’s body, was terrible to bear.
"O faultless one, you are my master’s daughter and ever worthy of my respect........ It is not proper for you, my sister, to ask me to wed you."
But after rejection by Kacha, she appeared as a wise learned Brahmin Lady, who had
enough strength to argue with her rival. "...........It is not fit that you should give up one like me sinless & devoted to you."
In spite of being a learned personality she proved a failure in the hands of fate & chance. Even Kacha cursed her that no Brahman would be her husband. Though her inner feminist also cursed Kacha that he would never be able to use his knowledge. But this curse propheties the next life story of Devayani. And it was this ’curse’ that incarnated Devayani into a feminist rather a victim.
"In the Mahabharata − the word DHARMA is invoked for almost everything. It was dharma to wage war & win. It was dharma to honour and cherish women but the same dharma is invoked to consider her as a domestic chattel."
Kacha rejected and considered Devayani as his sister on the ground of Dharma. Even he cursed her ’Not to be married with a Brahaman’, on the ground of same Dharma. But if we think according to a feminist point of view where was the Dharma when Kacha was pretending to be in love with Devayani.
Devayani also means ’main−goddess’ or mastermind. She was beautiful, faithful, trustworthy, and many other wonderful qualities were compiled in her.
The episode between Devayani & Sarmistha proved her an invincible woman with enough strength to fight against injustice.
Pushing Devayani into a dry well , Sarmishtha brought a bliss for her as she happened to meet there Emperor Yayati who was hunting in the forest. By a happy chance, she came to the very spot in search of water and he seized her hand and helped her out of the well.
She had a wonderful presence of mind, that’s why quickly she proposed to him that he should marry her as he had held her right hand. But according to the ancient tradition, it was considered wrong for a Brahman maiden to marry a Kshatriya. Again her inner feminist moved ahead against traditions. Here we can apply Freud’s theory (in case of her second chance to have a man in her life)
In Freud’s opinion
"If ideas are repressed, but remain in the mind, removed from consciousness yet operative, and then reappear in consciousness under certain circumstances".
Most probably the repressed feelings and passions of devayani for Kacha, activated and then reappeared in her consciousness at the first sight of Yayati. That’s why she at once proposed Yayati.
Devayani had wisdom to discriminate between right & wrong. She had enough strength to fight against injustice. That’s why when Sukracharya tried to console her and asked her to come back after her conflict with Sarmishtha, she rejected by saying that Sarmishtha had insulted her father, by saying a ’mendicant living on the doles won by falttery’.
She argued with her quick wit and clever tongue,
"The wounds inflicted by weapons may close in time; scolds may heal gradually but wounds inflected by words remain painful as long as one lives."
She was a bit stubborn and that’s why she made Sarmishtha as her attendant, only to satisfy her ego.
Here, her stubborn nature brought her the greatest adversity of her life. No doubt, Yayati & Devayani spent many days in happiness & Sarmishtha remained with her as an attendant. But the extra marital affair or illicit relation of Yayati with Sarmishtha was a great adversity which was brought by herself by keeping Sarmishtha as her attendant.
It may be Sarmishtha’s revenge against Devayani. As has been rightly said,
"A revengeful woman is worse than anything else.’
Sarmishtha established illicit relations with Yayati. Here Devayani appeared not as a submissive, but as a fearless and uncompromising woman who was so quick to seek revenge. Again her inner feminist complained to her father Sukracharya and he
in his rage cursed Yayati with pre time old age.’ Her ability to overcome adversity in an invincible manner kept her apart from other women in the Mahabharata.
Hence she proved ’ A woman can’t be a victim always.’
Devayani had absolute ability to use her position as well as her power of being a woman.
"Fearlessness’, is the keyword in the character of Devayani. Besides her sensuousness, as for that she was cursed by Kacha, she had so many qualities that proved her absolute. As Dr. Vanamala Bhawalkar states
"[In] Draupadi’s Era, there was no question of women’s equality with men. The wife was the counterpart of her husband and both together became a complete person. As Milton has said "He for God and she For the God in him" was true in those days."(150).
But as we perceive Devayani’s character, we find a strong woman who fights against every discrimination and injustice, even the injustice done by her husband. And for that one considers Devayani as more profound and wonderful character as compared with Draupadi. In spite of being humiliated in the court , she forgives her husbands. No doubt she rebuked & threatened the Kauravas for molesting her, even she took her revenge that resulted in to the war of Mahabharata. But ultimately she never thought to punish her husbands. Definitely the Pandavas were themselves responsible for Draupadi’s humilation. ".................Though soft speaking she used harsh words to her husbands when necessary." Yet, she forgave her husbands. But in case of Devayani, she never forgave her husband even she complained against him to Sukracharya that resulted into his pre−time old age. She has proved that woman is not only to serve her husband. She may be revengeful against injustice done by her husband. She has as equal rights as a man has.
The feisty nature of Draupadi, sophisticated aspects of Kunti & aggressiveness of Amba combine in one form that is Unwavering Devayani.
1. Bhawalkar, V.(2002) Eminent Women in the Mahabharta, Delhi: Sharda Publishing House 2. Raja Gopalachari, C.(2007) Mahabharta,
Mumbai, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan. 3. Motilal, Bimal Krishna (1989) Moral Dilemmas in the Mahabharta, India: Sh. Jainendra Press